How Students Can Solve Problems with Edison Robots.

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I have always enjoyed using Edison’s in the classroom. They don’t feel as versatile as they could be at first, but with a little patience and prompting there are some gems to discover.

Edcreate is a great concept that gets Edison aficionado's to think outside the ‘Edison Box’. By tapping into the modular powers of lego, playing with the Edcreate predesigned concepts can get students to start thinking about how they can apply there creativity in different ways.

Beyond Edcreate Kits

Edcreate comes with 5 designs for which there are instructions for. I built the digger first and had some fun around the office, as I had co-opted the projector remote to build my robotic empire.

The breakthrough for me came when I realised some of the engineering potential with a platform like Edison.

Students have to think mechanically about how they will achieve certain tasks. The meetedison.com site even has some challenges of its own that you and your students can have a go at solving to whet their innovative appetite. I really like these challenges as a way to scaffold the students and ourselves into exploring the ‘E’ in STEAM. 

These engineering concepts can be explored further through whimsical Rube Goldberg contraptions or studied by referencing some of the concepts on the 507 movements website.

A Rube Goldberg Machine, serving cake! 

So, what?

The ability to build onto Edison as well as co-opting to the wheel mechanism means that there are a range of ways that students can apply with Edison. Edison can respond to light and sound, follow a line, avoid obstacles and even communicate with other Edisons. It’s a platform with so much potential. However, it will take a little patience and handful of perseverance, but when it clicks and students world and ideas grow it will be magical!

But how do you get there?

Finding problems and crafting challenges.

Switch from telling to showing. Students are incredibly creative and solve problems daily, even if it is mainly through the video games that they play. They thrive on challenges. Showing them how to approach challenges is infinitely more valuable than prescribing the tasks and activities they do. This means moving as quickly as possible from scanning barcodes to observing their surroundings and hunting out problems to solve.

Finding Problems.

An activity I like to use to kick off students problem senses is to evaluate the spaces they inhabit frequently.

  1. Home
  2. School, and
  3. Community

What are their roles and responsibilities in these different settings? What are the jobs they despise? What are the feelings they are trying to avoid? What feelings are others trying to avoid? Encourage students to design and develop ideas for problems that affect them or someone they know personally.

Find 2-3 jobs per section will give you and your students the ability to change ideas when things don’t work out on the first idea they have chosen. This should be expected and it’s always a great opportunity to develop growth mindsets and resiliency in students.

Their brainstorm might look something like this:

Crafting Challenges.

Challenges should open ended and should be able to be solved in more than one way. Challenges are invitations for imagination, ingenuity and self expression. 

Consider the difference between the following:

  1. Problem: There is dirty dishes in the kitchen, design a robot to wash, dry and pack them away.

  2. Oh no! It’s your turn to do the dishes, but you also said you would walk the dog. Something needs to help you!

What did you notice? 

Number 1 is very prescriptive and assumes that there is a straightforward solution. It stops students from engaging creatively with the problem and essentially communicates, “I don’t trust your ability to design effective solutions”.

Number 2 sets up a dilemma for students. They have to consider what task they prefer and which one they don’t. They also get to choose a path forward and commit to discovering a solution. There is the potential they dislike one of the tasks more than the other, they now have a mandate to solve the problem, they’re invested.

Challenges invite students to have some skin in the game. It’s on them to design and deliver a solution. Each of them will have a unique approach and point of view on the problem. As teachers, educators and facilitators our role is set the stage and get out of the way.

Author’s Bio

Andy Crowe is a technology educator who is passionate about supporting teachers and facilitator’s, as a Maker Mentor, to create authentic learning experiences for young people. He shares his ideas at andymakes.co, and explores problems worth solving and partnerships beyond the school gate. You can find him on Twitter: @andymakes_

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